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The Fantasy Basement: Week 6
The Fantasy Basement is a weekly piece that provides fantasy advice on lineup calls, sleepers, waiver-wire moves and rookie spotlights, along with the occasional ramble or four. Why “Fantasy Basement” you ask? There is a common misconception that sports writers dwell in their childhood cellars, that the institution promotes an arrested development. However, instead of railing against this claim, I am embracing this subterranean bourgeoisie. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy coming home to fresh-baked cookies and having their laundry done? But I digress…Enjoy.
QB: Michael Vick, Eagles
To think, 13 months ago, the man was the No. 1 overall pick in the majority of fantasy drafts. Only Facebook’s stock has taken a bigger hit in that period, as injury concerns and turnover troubles have plagued the Philly field general. This lack of conviction has translated to a meager 40.9 start percentage for Vick in FOXSports.com fantasy football leagues, below fellow erratic arms Joe Flacco and Cam Newton.
Despite this doubt, I’m standing by my preseason prophecy of revival for the 32-year-old quarterback. (Take note of this loyalty, single ladies.) Philadelphia’s early-season slate has been littered with stringent defensive foes, the likes of which make most NFL quarterbacks look ineffective. The second-half schedule, however, opens up, including this week’s date with a Detroit resistance that is more bark than bite. Also helping matters is enriched depth at the Eagles’ skill positions, and his savvy on the soil always makes Vick a threat to blow up the box scores. There’s definitely a gamble associated with this play, but the juice is worth the squeeze with Vick.
Other starts: Christian Ponder, Matt Schaub
RB: Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
That Mendenhall looked fresh and agile in his season debut last week was not necessarily a surprise, as the Steelers back has been practicing with the team for a solid month. What was unexpected was the amount of success Mendenhall attained against a top-10 rush defense in the Eagles. If Mendenhall was able to deliver versus such an adversary, imagine the dividends awaiting him and his proprietors as the Steelers take on a Tennessee team that is conceding the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs this season.
Other starts: Willis McGahee, Doug Martin
WR: Stevie Johnson, Bills
Johnson’s output may have dipped the past two weeks (eight catches, 62 yards), yet the Kentucky product is still getting looks from Ryan Fitzpatrick, evidenced by 20 targets in that time span. Factoring the porous play of the Buffalo defense thus far, it’s not hard to fathom an amplified air attack to continue for the Bills. On paper, this week’s journey to the desert to battle a tough Cardinals defense may seem ominous, but Arizona has allowed the fifth-most yards to receivers in the early going. With Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller struggling the past two weeks, roll with Johnson as a fantasy No. 1 wideout this weekend.
Other starts: Eric Decker, Michael Crabtree
TE: Owen Daniels, Texans
He has taken residence in this forum before, though this seems to be escaping the grasp of owners considering Daniels was started in fewer than 50 percent of FOXSports.com formats last week. Forget Daniels reverting to his early 2009 form (eight games, 40 receptions, 519 yards, five touchdowns); with Andre Johnson clearly not right, the Houston tight end is now the de facto No. 1 target for the Texans and is a viable threat to break the 1,000-yard barrier. Not bad for a cat who fell to the 14th round, according to the average draft position tool.
Houston welcomes the Packers to town this Sunday night, and though Green Bay has improved on defense, the Green and Yellow have not been effective against the tight end position in their five contests. Envision Daniels continuing this trend.
Other starts: Brent Celek, Heath Miller
DEF: Pittsburgh Steelers
Troy Polamalu is back in the infirmary, but the Steel City still has James Harrison in tow. Better yet, Matt Hasselbeck and Chris Johnson will be across the line from the Steelers, which should roughly translate to three interceptions and seven tackles for loss. Sad thing is, Titans fans, those estimates are conservative.
Other starts: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals
QB: Andy Dalton, Bengals
It’s hard to bet against a man they call the “Red Rifle,” especially as Dalton has thrown for nine touchdowns and 1,124 yards the past four games. Unfortunately, the Cleveland secondary is quietly stalwart, a circumstance that should only improve with the return of cornerback Joe Haden this week. Even in two-quarterback leagues, Dalton is a risky play.
Since we are on the subject, there has been a high volume of questions in chats and the mailbox regarding Dalton’s rest-of-season worth. And since I’m a man of the people, this seems like the juncture to address those queries. For the rest of October, Dalton is a no-go with Cleveland and Pittsburgh on tap. November? Different story, as the Broncos, Giants, Chiefs and Raiders can all be had through the sky. Yet come fantasy playoff time, Dalton will be a non-factor again, as the Who-Deys’ plate is filled with formidable foes in the Chargers, Cowboys, Eagles, Steelers and Ravens. So, in short: no for October, yes for November and two thumbs down for December.
Other sits: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Eli Manning
RB: Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
The good: Bradshaw showed no lingering effects from an early-season neck injury last week, accruing nearly 230 total yards on the Browns. The bad: Bradshaw and the Giants encounter a 49ers defense in Week 6 that is suffocating opposing running backs to six fantasy points per game in standard formats, lowest in the NFL. The ugly: backup Andre Brown suffered a concussion in Week 5 and will probably be unavailable, meaning rookie David Wilson will get another opportunity after his failures in the season opener. Why is this bad for Bradshaw? Call it intuition, but I have a feeling once Wilson gets a chance to shine, it will be hard for the Giants to keep him off the field.
Other sits: Alfred Morris, Steven Jackson
WR: Torrey Smith, Ravens
Loyal readers know I love me some Smith, with the Baltimore wideout rivaling only Skyline Chili, Jock Jams Vol. 1, Golden Tee and Anne Hathaway for my affection. Alas, the offseason upgrades of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have correlated to the ‘Boys holding receivers to the second-lowest output at the fantasy position in 2012. Smith is always capable of ripping off a 50-yard bomb, but the safe play is to keep the second-year man on the bench.
Other sits: Brandon Lloyd, Darrius Heyward-Bey
TE: Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
This should not be a major cause for alarm, but Pettigrew’s absence from the team’s Tuesday practice for “rest” reasons was somewhat bizarre as the Lions are coming off a bye. However, this sabbatical is not the catalyst for sitting out the tight end this week. Rather, Detroit’s opponent, Philadelphia, has been stout against the position, granting just four fantasy points per game to tight ends. In deeper leagues, Pettigrew is worth implementation, yet with the depth at the spot this season, he does not warrant starting status in most standard leagues.
Other sits: Scott Chandler, Jermaine Gresham
DEF: New York Jets
To their credit, the Jets held their own in opposition to one of the league’s best offenses in Houston last Monday without Revis Island. And on paper, the Colts hardly induce trepidation. However, in the event Indianapolis does fall behind, predict some garbage points killing the fantasy showing of Gang Green this week.
Other sits: San Diego Chargers, Green Bay Packers
The Sports Movie Head Scratcher of the Week
There’s an inherent petition from most sports films that the patrons must suspend belief regarding some of the picture’s narrative. However, while a grain of salt is usually acquiesced from the audience, there remain storylines from these athletic classics that defy logic and reason that need to be examined with greater scrutiny. These preposterous plot points will be analyzed along with a questionable call from the previous week of football.
In the Gridiron Gang, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a counselor at a juvenile detention center, creates a football team to teach the inmates about teamwork, honor, respect and all the usual jazz you hear coaches pontificate the game imparts. In one scene, Johnson challenges the kids to a tackling competition to prove their fortitude. Just spitballing, but I doubt the probationary board would approve of a grown man laying the smackdown on a bunch of teenagers on the football field. Considering Johnson is a 275-pound beast, an injury or two would probably occur, right?
Speaking of disapproval, why did the Bengals attempt a field goal with three minutes to go when the team was down four? I have never been accused of being a math scholar, but by my calculation, a successful try would have left Cincinnati down by (checking computer schematics and number-crunching scribbles on paper)…one. And with three minutes to go, not liking the odds of Cincinnati stopping Miami on three downs, getting the ball inside their own 20 and proceeding to drive 50 yards to kick another field goal in the allotted amount of time. In typical Bengals fashion, the original field goal attempt was missed, almost rendering this convo pointless, but the frightening lack of creativity from the coaching staff is something that cannot go without our scorn.
Waiver Wire Watch: Mario Manningham, 49ers
Manningham has been unable to replicate his Super Bowl success in San Fran to this point, hauling in 19 balls for 186 yards and a score. Nevertheless, Manningham is slowly but surely building affinity with Alex Smith, illustrated by the duo’s connection for a touchdown last week. The Giants are giving up the fourth-most points in the NFC to wide receivers, and Manningham will be seeking revenge against his former squad for not re-signing him during the offseason. Available in over 65 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, Manningham is not only worth a pickup this week, but could be a valuable asset down the road.
Email of the Week
This week’s winner comes from Mike in Fort Worth, who writes:
“Frustrated with DeMarco Murray, reminds me of Julius Jones. Should I trade him for Law Firm?”
By itself, you may be wondering how this correspondence was chosen for the honor, and certainly owners can second the vexation on the Cowboys backfield. However, the email gets the nod as it’s the first negative-toned dispatch I have received from a Dallas fan regarding America’s Team. Verified by the hurricane of hate sent my direction after having the audacity to suggest sitting Tony Romo against Seattle, usually backers of the ‘Boys will defend their club despite what trivial things like statistics and reasoning dictate, so actual condemnation on the Cowboys blew me away. This is a step in the right direction, friends.
Anyway, the Dallas offensive line is a train wreck, meaning a quick turnaround for Murray is unlikely. Yet BenJarvus Green-Ellis has not done much of late, either, and does not possess the PPR potential of Murray. For now, stick with Murray.
Fantasy Flyer: Brady Quinn, Chiefs
Kidding. Although if anyone plans on gambling this weekend (and by “gambling” I’m referring to a friendly wager of soda between buddies), go ahead and pounce on the Bucs at home against the guy who was the third-string signal caller behind Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow last year.
Fantasy Flyer: Josh Gordon, Browns
Trusting any Browns entity outside of Trent Richardson is a stretch, but against an ordinary Cincinnati secondary that Brandon Weeden hit up for 322 yards a month ago, Gordon is not the worst of plays. After all, someone outside of Richardson has to accumulate yardage (and do not respond with, “Greg Little,” who just dropped his laptop trying to read this article). Additionally, Gordon received eight balls in his vicinity last week. Granted, he only brought in two for catches, yet both grabs were trips to pay dirt. Possessing strength, rise and explosiveness, Gordon makes for the perfect red-zone bull’s-eye, promoting a sly-start endorsement in deeper leagues.
The Real Debate
Hope you are sitting down: there’s a quarterback debate with the Jets. Shocking, I know. But the discussion should not center on Tebow replacing Mark Sanchez; rather, the Real Debate should be this: what the hell has happened to Shonn Greene? Remember the 2009 postseason where the then-rookie rusher took the playoffs by storm (three games, 304 yards, two touchdowns) and everyone thought Greene was the next big thing? Since that conquest, Greene has just over 2,000 yards in 36 regular-season contests. That’s what we in the business call, “not gettin’ it done.” The Jets have a decent offensive line, and as Jamaal Charles has proven, blaming the shortcomings under center for running back woes in not necessarily accurate, either. Too bad, as “Gang Greene” would have been a marketing jackpot.
Rookie Review: Rueben Randle, Giants
A second-round pick out of LSU, Randle was viewed as a candidate to plug in the void left by the departed Manningham, a role that Randle had left unfulfilled through the first month of the season with just one catch for four yards. Worse, fellow receivers Ramses Barden and Domenik Hixon had overtaken Randle on the depth chart for New York’s No. 3 wideout slot. However, with Barden on the sidelines, Randle made his first contributions of the season against the Browns, recording six catches for 82 yards in victory. Barden, along with Hakeem Nicks, may return this weekend, encumbering Randle’s short-term worth, though as he continues to become assimilated with the G-Men’s offense, expect Randle to be featured to a higher degree.
This Week in Kevin Walter
The Pride of Ypsilanti posted four receptions for 46 yards in a victory over the Jets on Monday night. For those that pooh-pooh such production, it was the third game in the last month where K-Walt outperformed the so-called No. 1 wideout of the team, the aforementioned Andre Johnson, who by most accounts is a top-five player at the position. Does this mean, using the transitive relation property, that I’m saying Kevin Walter is the best receiver in football? Well, I’m not not saying that.
Walter’s 2012 Stats: 13 receptions, 177 yards, one touchdown
Walter’s Cornerback Body Count: Six
Personal Foul on: Chris Johnson, Titans
Johnson has failed to cross that ever-elusive 25-yard barrier in four of five games in 2012. Though Jamie Harper shouldn’t steal touches anytime soon and Johnson’s aptitude in the receiving game retains his PPR worth, sometimes you need a clean break from a player. Johnson, in the words of almost every girlfriend I’ve ever had, “It’s not me, it’s you.”
Gatorade Shower Goes to: Drew Brees, Saints
Even with today’s pass-happy landscape, an air end-zone excursion in 48 consecutive games is pretty damn impressive.